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Human Trafficking 101: How to Recognize / How to Report.

January 25, 2019

In a lunchtime discussion this week, professionals from varying backgrounds shared their knowledge and expertise on the human trafficking industry and what people can do to recognize the common signs and report them. (See our previous post for a quick list.)

Listen in here:

Among the panelists were an Assistant Attorney General from the SECURE Strike Force, a Supervisory Special Agent from the SECURE Strike Force, a Trafficking in Persons Director, an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, and a human trafficking survivor.

The panel focused on the basics – what is human trafficking, how to recognize it, and how to report it. The panelists shared their insights influenced by their medical, legal, law enforcement, and personal backgrounds. Each had a gripping understanding of the horrors of human trafficking and shared how an average person can help combat this industry.

The panelists urged the audience to have kindness, seek out training, support legislators as they make and pass laws to combat human trafficking, and to simply become aware of how prevalent human trafficking is – even in Utah.

Here’s the Facebook Live video – please share with friends, and help end this crime.

January 11th: Human Trafficking Awareness Day

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and January 11th is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. The Utah Attorney General’s Office, in partnership with the Trafficking in Persons Program, Refugee & Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah, and the Utah Trafficking in Persons (UTIP) Task Force, will present a series of commentaries to educate and engage the public on the realities and complex dynamics of human trafficking.

Recognizing and Reporting

Human trafficking, by its criminal nature, is secretive. Traffickers use “invisible ropes” involving complex manipulative tactics to control their victims. If human trafficking in Utah doesn’t typically involve the use of handcuffs, chains, cages, locked rooms, or shipping containers that books and movies might use to portray the subject, how can we recognize it?

 First, before addressing the red flags which may indicate human trafficking and what someone observing red flags can do, remember Rule #1: Keep yourself safe. Do not place yourself in danger. Never confront a suspected trafficker.

If you can safely observe a suspicious situation, recognize the red flags, and report them to the proper authorities, you can make a difference. Most of the successful human trafficking cases prosecuted through the Attorney General’s office have started with a tip from a concerned citizen.

There are a number of red flags that, in and of themselves, may not be too sinister. But as the red flags pile up, they may begin to indicate a trafficking situation. Pay particular attention to any situation where:

  • A person is recruited for work with grand and unlikely promises;
  • A person works excessive hours for little or no pay;
  • A person exhibits signs of untreated illness or injuries;
  • A person is not in control of his or her identification, immigration, or travel documents;
  • A person exchanges sex to meet basic needs, e.g., food, clothing, or shelter;
  • A person’s behavior appears to be controlled or fearful;
  • A younger person travels with an older boyfriend or companion who seems particularly watchful or controlling;
  • A person suddenly acquires expensive and/or revealing clothing, jewelry, or electronics, without explanation for how they obtained the products;
  • A person’s communication is restricted and she or he is unable to speak separately or alone;
  • A person owes money to her or his employer;
  • A person says they “can’t quit” their job because of fear of some great harm, such as deportation;
  • A person demonstrates sudden changes in behavior.

These red flags are not uncommon. Any given day we could encounter someone we suspect might be a victim of human trafficking—either for labor or sexual exploitation—while we are at a park, at the mall, on a bus or train, or even at school. If it can be done safely, consider asking some questions that will elicit helpful information without appearing to be inquiring about human trafficking. Ask about where they are from, where they live now, or with whom they live. If they are traveling with a suspicious companion, ask how they met. If they have tattoos—which can be used to brand or identify a trafficker’s victims—ask about them, what do they mean, when did they get them, what’s the story behind them.

If the conversation proceeds to uncover additional red flags, and circumstances permit—remember not to place yourself in danger or ask too specific of questions while a suspected trafficker is within hearing range—move to deeper, more targeted questions.  Ask if they have ever been forced to do work that they did not want to do, or if they have ever worked in a place where the work was different from what they were promised it would be. Ask if anyone takes all or part of the money they earn. Has anyone threatened them or their family? Are they in possession of their identification and travel documents, or does someone else have control over those documents? Has anyone ever taken photos of them and put them on the internet?  Have they ever exchanged sex for food, shelter, drugs, or money? Ask if they feel trapped in their situation. 

Traffickers rely on the general public not asking questions, not recognizing the red flags, and simply looking the other way. Simple conversation with someone we might suspect is a victim of human trafficking can provide valuable insights into the situation. Details and red flags identified from a conversation can then be passed on to law enforcement officers who can further investigate and determine whether human trafficking is taking place. 


On January 22nd we’ll host a lunchtime panel discussion – Brown Bag: Human Trafficking 101. Please join us as we cover more information on the topic of recognizing and reporting human trafficking. Watch our Facebook page for details.


To report tips regarding human trafficking, please contact the Utah Attorney General’s Office:

  • Utah Human Trafficking Tipline: 801-200-3443
  • Internet Crimes Against Children Tipline: 801-281-1211

January is National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month

1/9/2019

Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, in an effort to educate and protect the citizens of Utah, issued the following statement recognizing National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

“Having seen the brutal effects of human trafficking  in a very close and personal way, I can attest that it robs victims of innocence, dignity, and hope. It is a horrific violation of human rights and a crime of terror. Every Utahn – every American – must understand that human trafficking can be found in any community — rural or urban, wealthy or modest, religious or secular. It does not discriminate in its victimization of people of all backgrounds.

“The eradication of human trafficking should be a priority for all who value justice, virtue and freedom. The fight to end human trafficking transcends political and ideological differences. It is not a Democrat or Republican issue but a humanitarian one. As such, it is critical for Utah and all states to work even more closely with law enforcement, first responders, and the communities who come in contact with human trafficking victims to combat modern-day slavery.

“We are grateful for our partnerships here at home, across the nation, and abroad that educate the public, liberate the captives, and provide healing for survivors. Utah has made great strides in recent years and is a recognized worldwide leader in the fight. But it’s still not enough. I invite all Utahns to get involved. Know the signs and learn how to report. Good people will not rest until human trafficking is eradicated from every community in Utah and around the world.”

Stay tuned over the next few weeks. The Utah Attorney General’s Office will publish a short series of human trafficking articles – how to recognize trafficking, how to report, and detailing elements of this $150 billion worldwide industry. Thank you for paying attention.

In the News

November 28, 2018

Over the last few weeks, our investigators and prosecutors tracked down an alleged human trafficker, caught a guy with child porn, brought down a large Ponzi scheme, and arrested several men in Southern Utah accused of trying to meet up with minors.

These are just a few highlights of an office team working on thousands of cases in an effort to protect and keep all Utahns safe.

You can catch up on all you may have missed below. Thanks for paying attention.

Human Trafficking

Deseret News: Charges: Man forced women into prostitution, human trafficking
Salt Lake Tribune: Utah attorney general’s office arrests man for human trafficking after victims come forward
KSL: Man charged in human trafficking case
Fox13: Utah Attorney General’s Office arrest a man for human trafficking of two women
KUTV: Utah arrests man accused of prostituting, raping, kidnapping and beating two women

Child Pornography

KSL: Man accused of having 100 gigabytes of child porn facing federal charges
Standard-Examiner: Kaysville man accused of downloading, possessing 100 GB of child pornography

Ponzi Scheme

KJZZ: Utah man, company charged with taking $170M from hundreds of people in Ponzi scheme
Fox13: Authorities say Ponzi scheme at Rust Rare Coin in Utah took hundreds of victims for $170 million

Crimes Against Children

St. George News: Police arrest 7 men accused of attempting to meet boys, girls for sex
The Spectrum: 7 men accused of trying to meet with minors for sex in Washington County
KUTV: 6 men arrested for attempting to meet minors for sex in Washington County
abc4: 7 men arrested accused of trying to meet minors for sex

Photo by Roman Kraft

2018 Report Card: Utah & child sex trafficking

November 20, 2018

Every year each state in the union gets a grade on their efforts in the fight against human trafficking by Shared Hope International, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending child sex trafficking. Shared Hope does this in a variety of ways, one of which is advocating in each state for stronger legislation that criminalizes the various aspects of human trafficking.

States are graded on the analysis and review of six areas:

  • Criminalization of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking 
  • Criminal Provisions for Demand (those who buy)
  • Criminal Provisions for Traffickers (those who sell)
  • Criminal Provisions for Facilitators (those who help)
  • Protective Provisions for Child Victims 
  • Criminal Justice Tools for Investigation & Prosecution

Report cards for 2018 were just released and Utah continues to be a leader in the fight against human trafficking. This is due in large part to Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes who is a strong, international voice who speaks for those who cannot speak for themselves.

 

Human trafficking is a top priority for the Utah Attorney General’s Office carried out by the Utah SECURE Strike Force and Utah Trafficking in Persons Task Force. Due to their action, the state of Utah has made several improvements to their legal code including: 

  • Prohibiting prosecution of children engaged in prostitution and mandating their referral to DCFS for services (2015 amendments)
  • Defining child trafficking as child abuse subject to protections and intervention in juvenile court and through DCFS (2015 amendments)
  • Punishing facilitators/beneficiaries of child trafficking the same as the direct offenders (I’m not sure when this was added)
  • Allowing victims of trafficking to sue their traffickers for civil damages (2017 amendments)

You can read the entire report here: Utah Report Card – Shared Hope 2018

To see how Utah compared to other states, go here: https://sharedhope.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/2018ProtectedInnocenceChallengeToolkit.pdf.

Photo Courtesy of Shared Hope International

Utah AG’s Office arrests suspected human trafficker

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 14, 2018

 

UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE ARRESTS SUSPECTED HUMAN TRAFFICKER
Women share stories of assault, abuse, and forced prostitution

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, the Utah Attorney General’s Office arrested James Savage Brown for multiple felony charges, including human trafficking, against two women. Charges against James Savage Brown consist of five first-degree felonies, including sexual exploitation and assault, and two second-degree felonies of aggravated exploitation of prostitution.
 
AG Special Agents learned of Brown’s activity earlier this year from one of the victims after she was released from the Salt Lake County Detention Center. While there, the victim encountered another woman who had suffered similarly at the hands of Brown. Both women told stories of sexual assault, physical abuse, and repeated forced prostitution.

James Savage Brown has a lengthy criminal history, both in Utah and California. In addition to the charges already filed, agents found stolen credit cards, marijuana, and a distributable amount of meth in his possession at the time of his arrest earlier today. The Utah Attorney General’s Office requested that James Savage Brown’s bail be denied as he poses a risk of danger to the community. 

The two victims are receiving treatment by a partner agency of the Attorney General’s Utah Trafficking in Person’s Task Force.

“The accused is entitled to a presumption of innocence. So we won’t make any more statements about him while the case is being prosecuted,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “But we can express how relieved we are that the alleged victims are safe and receiving the best resources we have at our disposal. We are grateful our agents and everyone else involved in the investigation and arrest are all safe. Human trafficking is a despicable crime that we in the Utah AGO are deeply committed to combat with aggressive investigations and prosecutions.”

The Attorney General’s SECURE Strike force executed the investigation and arrest. SECURE is tasked by the Utah Legislature with investigating and prosecuting large-scale criminal operations, including human trafficking.

Human trafficking tips should be reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

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NOTES:

  1. You can find a copy of the charging documents and probable cause statement here:  https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/James-Brown-Savage.pdf.
  2.  Read more about the AG’s SECURE Strike Force here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/secure-task-force/.
  3. You can find more information on the Utah Trafficking in Persons (UTIP) Task Force here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/initiatives/human-trafficking/.

UTIP conference focuses on victim aftermath

Local and national experts shared with over 300 people during the 2018 Utah Trafficking in Persons Conference held Monday, September 10th. Among the attendees this year were service providers, law enforcement officers, collaborative partners, prosecutors, court staff, trafficking survivors, community members, and many others.

This year the conference focused on recognizing and using protective factors for victims in the aftermath of trafficking as well as address common complications with human trafficking cases. The conference hosted several experts from law enforcement, the medical field, behavioral health, and more to address best practices in Utah that benefit every field or specialized interest.

“The people on the panel were great, spoke the truth about issues and shared deeply felt feelings with us. Having survivor’s voices at the table is so needed. Good job!!” – Attendee comment

Poetry, art exhibits, and live presentations by trafficking survivors gave the audience a clear understanding of why outreach, case management, treatment, and long-term self-sufficiency services are critical for those who’ve been exploited in our communities. 

“I really like the honesty from Dr. Halleh [Seddighzadeh] when she said that healing is messy (meaning the road can be rough, but progress is progress) and we have a lot of work to do to help survivors and victims feel safe!” – Attendee comment

AG Reyes welcomed the attendees and their hard work in the fight against human trafficking in Utah with the following sentiments: 

Good4Utah was on site to cover the event. You can watch and read more here: Conference helps support victims of human trafficking in Utah

Photo: Youth human trafficking survivor, Sol, shares her story at the 2018 UTIP Conference.

Quinlen Atkinson Sentenced for Human Trafficking

Weber County, Utah  December 20, 2017 –Attorney General Sean Reyes today announced the guilty plea and sentencing of Quinlen Atkinson to human trafficking.  Atkinson pled guilty to Human Trafficking, a second degree felony. Atkinson was arrested and charged by the Utah Attorney General’s Office, SECURE Strike Force, last year as part of its ongoing commitment to eradicate human trafficking in Utah. He will serve up to fifteen years in prison.
 
“Exploiting and abusing young people in this way is one of the most repulsive acts imaginable,” said Attorney General Reyes. “I want to thank the brave men and women of our Attorney General’s Office, especially Assistant Attorney General Dan Strong who brought the charges and to our elite investigative unit, the Utah SECURE Strikeforce, for bringing this predator to justice. I also want to invite the community’s prayers on behalf of the victims and their families for a recovery that will help them reclaim their lives and their innocence.”
 
Atkinson came to the attention of authorities after they received reports that he had recruited two high school students—one 17 years old and the other 18 years old—to work as part of his commercial sex operation. Witnesses reported that Atkinson substantially managed the commercial sex operation, including transporting both girls within and outside of the state for the purposes of commercial sex. Atkinson was alleged to have kept most or all money earned in this operation, despite promising the girls he recruited that he would invest the money and purchase them a house.
 
Atkinson was sentenced to prison by the 2nd District Court for Weber County. He will serve between one and fifteen years in prison, as determined by the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.
 
The Utah Attorney General’s Office administers and coordinates the SECURE Strike Force partnership with the Utah Department of Public Safety and county, federal and city law enforcement agencies to combat violent and other major felony crimes associated with illegal immigration and human trafficking.
 
If you believe you have a tip about human trafficking, please call the tip line at 801-200-3443.
 

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EDITOR’S NOTES: 
 
1. The mission of the Utah Attorney General SECURE Strike Force is to carefully target major fraud, organized gun, drug and human trafficking, detect creation of fraudulent government identification and other documents, and prosecute these crimes with specialized investigators and resources and a dedicated Assistant Attorney General prosecutor.
 
2. The SECURE Strike Force is an integral part of the Utah Trafficking in Person’s Task Force.
 
3. Read more about the SECURE Strike Force here.

Attorney General’s Office Announces Human Trafficking Arrests by ICAC and SECURE Strike Force

SALT LAKE CITY February 23, 2017 – In cooperation with local and national law enforcement agencies today, the Utah Attorney General’s Office (AGO) announced in a press conference the arrests of a number of individuals on human trafficking and child sex exploitation charges. The following contains information on the arrests, as well as cases studies and follow-up information on questions asked during the conference. The arrests are related to cases where victims of human trafficking were trafficked inside Utah. Some cases involved minors and some crossed state lines. As a result of the multi-agency action, involving 25 agencies, there were 16 arrests including two prior sex offenders and one parolee, and three children were rescued.

The Utah Attorney General’s office does not handle every case where a child is alleged to have been involved in sex trafficking. Cases are investigated and referred to other prosecutor’s offices throughout the state in the jurisdictions where the case arose. For various reasons, the Utah AGO cannot give the number of investigations, prosecutions, or convictions that would accurately convey the breadth of this crime throughout the state.

The Utah AGO office possesses the specific training, expertise, and resources needed for addressing human trafficking that allows the AGO to devote the time and attention needed to build these complicated cases. For this reason, many but not all of these cases are referred to the AGO for help. Some of the Sexual Exploitation of Minor cases involved the manufacturing of child pornography. Several of the suspects traveled across the state and state line to sexually abuse children.

Some of the Sexual Exploitation of Minor cases involved the manufacturing of child pornography. Several of the suspects traveled across the state and state line to sexually abuse children.

Charges filed include:

  • Rape of a Child (1st Degree Felony)
  • Sexual Exploitation of a Minor (2nd Degree Felony)
  • Enticing a Minor over the Internet (2nd Degree Felony)
  • Dealing in Harmful Material to a Child (3rd Degree Felony)
  • Failure to Register as a Sex Offender (3rd Degree Felony)
  • Criminal Charges (cont.)
  • Criminal Conspiracy (3rd Degree Felony)
  • Possession of Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute (2rd
  • Degree Felony)
  • Multiple other A and B Misdemeanors

Most cases had multiple counts of the same charge.

Partner agencies in the arrests include:

  • Adult Probation and Parole
  • Bountiful Police Department
  • Clearfield Police Department
  • Davis County Sheriff’s Office
  • Department of Public Safety
  • Enforcement and Removal Operations
  • Heber City Police Department
  • Homeland Security Investigations
  • Ogden Police Department
  • Orem City Police Department
  • Park City Police Department
  • Pleasant Grove Police Department
  • Provo City Police Department
  • Sevier County Sheriff’s Office
  • South Salt Lake City Police Department
  • Summit County Sheriff’s Office
  • Syracuse Police Department
  • Tooele City Police Department
  • Unified Police Department
  • United States Marshal’s Office
  • Utah County Attorney’s Office
  • Utah County Sheriff’s Office
  • Vernal Police Department
  • Weber County Sheriff’s Office

The prosecuting agencies were the Utah Attorney General’s Office and the Utah County Attorney’s Office.

Cases where trafficking of a child may not result in charges for human trafficking

There are a few reasons why cases where children were trafficked for sex may not result in charges for human trafficking of a child:

  • Human Trafficking of a Child is a new area of criminal justice. It was only added to the Utah criminal code in 2015. In the old model of viewing these cases, many times the child being sex trafficked was arrested for prostitution and adjudicated delinquent in the juvenile justice system. Only in the last year did Utah pass a “safe harbor” provision for children engaged in the sex trade that clarifies they should be treated as victims and referred to services.
  • While the safe harbor provision has helped protect child victims of sex trafficking from improper criminal charges, the criminal justice field at large still has a long way to go in shifting from viewing this crime into a human trafficking lens. In some jurisdictions, these cases are still investigated through the lens of prostitution and not human trafficking. Sometimes suspects are charged with exploiting prostitution even in cases where children were sex trafficked.
  • Another component of the safe harbor philosophy is that we should avoid re-victimizing those preyed on by sex traffickers by pressuring them to participate in the criminal justice process. In our office, we often prosecute defendants who we have reason to believe are traffickers with other related offenses, either because the victim does not want to participate in our criminal case or to protect them from having to do so if we can secure justice through other charges.

Case studies and updates on previous human trafficking arrests

Among the cases reported on today is the AGO’s prosecution of William Piol Makuei: Mauei was charged with three counts of 1st Degree Felony Rape of a Child after his DNA was found to match the newborn child of a girl who was impregnated before she turned 14. He later admitted to having sex with the child victim. This case arose from a human trafficking tip and ensuing investigation

The following two cases were not included in today’s briefing, but are provided here as updates to arrests previous reported.

  • Charles Daryl Kelley:  Kelley was convicted in July 2016 of Attempted Human Trafficking of a Child, after he attempted to recruit a 15-year-old girl into a commercial sex operation he was running out of a motel in Midvale. 
  • Quinlen Nathaniel Atkinson: Last April, Mr. Atkinson was charged with 1st Degree Felony Human Trafficking of a Child, 1st Degree Felony Aggravated Exploitation of Prostitution Involving a Child, and several other felony charges based on allegations that he was running a commercial sex operation from Ogden to Idaho and Southern Utah. Both girls he is accused of manipulating into joining his operation were high school students. At the time of the known offenses, one of the girls had recently turned 18 and the other was 17 years old. This case is awaiting trial in Weber County.

Tip Line Numbers

Individuals with tips are encouraged to contact the Utah Attorney General’s tip lines:

The PowerPoint Presentation utilized at the press conference is embedded below.

 

Utah Attorney General’s Office Announces Guilty Plea in Bountiful Human Trafficking Case

Davis County, Utah  February 18, 2017 – The Office of the Utah Attorney General announced today the guilty plea on Thursday of Todd Jeremy Rettenberger to charges relating to human trafficking and related crimes.  Rettenberger was sentenced to one to fifteen years in prison for second-degree felony human trafficking and zero to five years for third-degree felony exploitation of prostitution. The sentences will run concurrently.

“The victims of this trafficker were girls, barely older than teens, forced into prostitution against their will and compelled to stay in “the life” by threats against their well-being and against their families. I am thrilled they will not have to endure a trial and be forced to relive the atrocities perpetrated upon them.  It is imperative that we now keep these survivors safe, avoid revictimizing them, empower them with resources and do everything we can to help them heal and reclaim their lives,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “Importantly, this case demonstrates that human trafficking is real. It exists in Utah as it does across the nation and around the world. It takes many forms and can happen anywhere.

“I offer my sincerest thanks and congratulations to Assistant Attorney General Dan Strong who brought the charges and to our elite investigative unit, the Utah SECURE Strikeforce, for their work on this case. I also want to thank and acknowledge Detective Aric Barker of the Bountiful City Police Department, his agency, and his chief, for their efforts to bring this human trafficker to justice and protect these victims.  Lastly, I reiterate my deep appreciation to each federal, state, county and city law enforcement agency that works side-by-side with the Utah AGO every day to disrupt human trafficking and related crimes in all their insidious forms.”

Rettenberger was charged in April of 2016 after police received reports that he was running a commercial sex operation out of Bountiful, along the Wasatch Front, and into other states. The Utah Attorney General’s Office’s SECURE Strike Force in conjunction with the Bountiful City Police Department investigated the allegations and found two women who were victimized by Rettenberger as part of this operation.  The women alleged that Rettenberger used forceful and coercive tactics, including threats of violence, physical violence, exploitation of their drug dependencies, and financial coercion.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office administers and coordinates the SECURE Strike Force partnership with the Utah Department of Public Safety and county, federal and city law enforcement agencies to combat violent and other major felony crimes associated with illegal immigration and human trafficking.

The mission of the Utah Attorney General SECURE Strike Force is to carefully target major fraud, organized gun, drug and human trafficking, detect creation of fraudulent government identification and other documents, and prosecute these crimes with specialized investigators and resources and a dedicated Assistant Attorney General prosecutor. The SECURE Strike Force works closely with the Utah Trafficking in Person’s Task Force. Learn more about the SECURE Strike Force here

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